The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mud-slinging match in Cong

Lucknow, Jan. 30: After the shock, the blame game.

Within two days of the split that caught them napping, Uttar Pradesh Congressmen have started pointing fingers at each other for the mess.

AICC representative Motilal Vora, sent here to assess the situation and prevent further defections, had to face a volley of charges today for protecting his protégé, Pramod Tewari, the leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

At a function of state Congress office-bearers, the speakers alleged that Tewari’s decision to boycott the recent legislative council election and allow the ruling BSP-BJP coalition to win the lone seat precipitated the crisis.

“He did not consult either the UPCC president or any of the MLAs and told us that the decision had been taken by the high command and communicated to him through you,” Vora was told.

The state unit’s youth wing has faxed a letter to party president Sonia Gandhi, pointing an accusing finger at Tewari. Asked to elaborate, youth wing chief Nadeem Ashraf Jaisi said: “I have communicated the views of my colleagues to the Congress president and we are waiting for her decision.”

Senior leader V.C. Shukla also blamed Tewari for the split that saw seven of the 23 party legislators join hands with expelled MLA Akhilesh Singh. “It is pointless to blame the Speaker for giving recognition to the split when our own house is not in order,” he said.

According to Shukla, the split could be a fallout of the rivalry between Tewari and state unit chief Arun Kumar Singh Munna. “It’s time when the leadership in Delhi acted to stop this.”

Most of the office-bearers, who assembled for the meeting at the party headquarters here, echoed Shukla. They wanted Sonia to intervene and suggested that the state unit chief could form a committee to probe the factors leading to the split.

“Nothing will be all right till we keep our house in order .The leadership will have to take some harsh decisions if it wants the party to perform better in the state,” said Mani Shanker Pandey, an office-bearer from Varanasi. His suggestion of “desperate remedies for a desperate situation” was supported by the others.

Today’s meeting was part of the state unit’s exercise to find out from grassroots workers how the party could perform better.

Yesterday, the heads of district units had demanded that Priyanka be put in charge of the state Congress.

Munna, however, tried to keep aloof. Asked to comment on Shukla’s remarks, he said: “He is a senior leader and I cannot comment on his statement.”

On their part, most of the defectors said they were fed up with the way the national leadership had handled affairs in the state.

“There was no decision for a long time on whether or not the support should be extended to Mulayam Singh Yadav for toppling the Mayavati government. Then there was an overnight decision that all Congress legislators would boycott the legislative council election despite the fact that the UPCC chief had clearly stated that the party would back the candidate (Yaswant Singh) propped up by the Opposition. There is utter confusion in the party,” one of the defectors said.

The election was seen as a trial of strength between the Opposition and the chief minister. Had the Congress backed the Opposition candidate, he would have won. The ruling coalition’s nominee got only 194 votes against the Opposition candidate’s 183.

“Since we were not playing the role of the Opposition, some of us thought it better to side openly with the ruling coalition,” said one of the defectors.

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